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Hungry Ghost Month


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Ronan's report

Thursday 5th September, 2013

It is now the Hungry Ghost Month according to the Chinese calendar. Apparently it is the party time for the departed from the first day until the 14th day of the seventh month on the Chinese calendar. Well that is not quite true, in some parts of China the "festival" for the deceased will last for an entire month but as my ancestors came from Southern China and so I was told the party for the departed was only for the first 14 days. During the remaining 16 days the seventh month, some lost souls from the other side will be having bad hang over and they will wonder around in this side disturbing people. It is a bad time to stay out at night, especially if you are fishing.

The Hungry Ghost Month is quite an interesting event to the visitors from the other side. Temples will be organising big concerts, sometimes with sexy sweet young thing as entertainers, offering abundant of drinks and food, mostly vegetarian. Of course all these are for the visiting souls from the other side, meaning there will be not many visible people enjoying this feast. Relatives of the departed will be burning huge incense, Hell Bank Notes in denominations of trillions, papier mache form of latest luxury items such as Rolex watches, Mercedes Benz, iphone 5, 80-inch flat LED TV etc. as offerings. It is quite a spectacular event to the departed but too bad such "festival" can never be a major tourism event because I think our tourism board does not want to attract tourists from the other side of a foreign realm. Perhaps because the tourism board here does not know how to create a special custom checkpoint for these tourists.

How this festival is related to fishing you may be asking. For some reasons the height of the Hungry Ghost month is probably one of the best times to fish on tidal water. The Chinese calendar is lunisolar, meaning it is based on moon phase and sun phase. I am no expert in Chinese astrology but if you look at the moon phase on the Chinese calendar and how the Hungry Ghost "festival" coincides with good fishing tide, it actually makes a lot a sense. The height of the Hungry Ghost month falls on just before the 15th day of the Chinese calendar when the moon is full and the seventh month is almost always just two months after the summer solstice. That is when the tide is just right for inshore and coastal fishing, I think. But the other more obvious reason is because there is less competition as fewer fishermen will be around fishing after sunset, visible fishermen at least.

Many years ago when I was doing a lot of sea fishing I kept myself very well informed of moon phase and tide charts of my favourite fishing spots for increasing the chances of bigger and more catches. Nowadays I only fish when I am free or when the timing suits me, so fishing now is all about going out there and doing something I like, therefore, the tide chart is no longer a useful guide now. However, we human are creatures of habits, so when I was driving up north for my routine visit to my company's branches, I instinctively had a glance at every river that I crossed. When I reached the coastal part of Penang I saw at least three rivers with plenty of activities. So I stopped at the one of the river and spent about ten minutes observing. I then called Irhamy to tell him I just saw plenty of oxeye activities (small pacific tarpons) and then asked for his help to mark the tide for me as I was continuing my drive further north. I planned to come back fishing on the same tide and perhaps when the Hungry Ghost month was over.

The next morning, I received a picture from Eddie Lim showing him holding a respectable size of ladyfish. He caught the fish on a tidal canal near another friend's backyard. This was a very rare catch indeed. Oxeye and barramundi are quite common at wild brackish water. Ladyfish is not so common. A ladyfish of such size so far inshore on manmade water is very rare indeed. I think Eddie Lim must have secretly made papier mache fly rods and fly reels offerings at some temples the night before!


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